Ten years ago I became a new person. Really. I changed my identity. I became a totally new person. The woman changing my name on my driver’s licence thought I was crazy and strange and I made her do it.
It all started when I went and got married 13 years ago today.
My partner and I had a few conversations about what to do about her name when we got married. She wasn’t sure about taking my last name and giving up hers. She didn’t want to give up her identity and assume a new one by taking my name. At the same time she wanted the world (or at least the occasional person) to know that we were married. There was of course the question of last names for kids if we each kept our pre-marriage last names.
I told her that I was proud of my family and where we had come from. My great-grandparents were illiterate – at least at the time they got married. Their marriage certificate has an ‘x’ for their signatures and indicates that it is the “mark of…” My grandfather was one of 11 children, several of whom died in childhood. He and my grandmother raised two kids and lived long fulfilling lives and were very effective at the grandparent role of slipping cash to grandkids for ‘ice cream’. On the other side of the family my grandfather grew up in a poor boys home and went on to be a municipal politician with a building named after him in Toronto. My grandmother survived the blitz in London during WWII. I had a great-aunt who was a dressmaker for the then princess Elizabeth and another who was one of the first women to do door-to-door sales. All of my grandparents and my mum immigrated to Canada from the UK and made a life here. I am proud of all those who came before me and what we have collectively accomplished.
I told my soon to be wife that she should also be proud of her family. At the same time that my ancestors were marking an X in lieu of their signature on their marriage certificates, her great-grandmother, grandmother and great-aunt were getting an education at Vassar College in the US. All of her grandparents also went to university. Her family in North America originated with a 16 year old son of a Welsh coal miner who immigrated to the US on his own. Also much to be proud of in my new family.
I told my partner that I didn’t want her to feel obligated to give up her name and take mine if she didn’t want to. She did some research and discovered that she could add my name to hers without hyphenating it and use either last name or both. She decided to do that. I opted not to change mine by adding her name. It was for a kind of foolish and vain reason. Adding her name to mine would have given me the name of a comedian who had recently passed away and I didn’t want to have the same name.
After a few years I decided that my reasons were weak and that we were a family. I decided that if she was going to add my name to hers then I could add her name to mine. This was my anniversary present on our third anniversary to her. She was a little confused to find my driver’s licence in her card though…
The thing with men changing their names is that it is still unusual and unexpected. For the most part everyone was great. The bank had no issues, the credit card company was fine with it too. The woman at the driver’s licence office, however, was a totally different story. I went to change my name on my licence and presented my marriage certificate as I had in other places and she was confused about what I wanted to do. She didn’t understand why I would be changing my name. I insisted that I wanted to change it and that I did not require a legal change of name in order to do it. I indicated my wife had done the same thing three years previous.
She decided she would need to speak to her supervisor so she walked over with my marriage certificate and after five or ten minutes she came back and with a great exhalation of breath said she could do it, but would require my marriage certificate in order to do it. I pointed out that she was holding just such a document. So she set about making the change she saidI don't know, sometimes I think this women's lib thing has gone too far.Click To Tweet
I refrained from pointing out that she was in fact a woman.
Ten years later I remain a double-barrel name, as does my partner and now our three girls. None of us have a hyphen and we like it that way.
Have you changed your name or your kid’s name or considered changing it? What inspired you to make the change or prevented you from doing it?
Did anyone judge you for your decision?